Saturday, January 29, 2011

December 16th - January 27th

Sorry this one took so long to post.  I hadn't kept a journal over my vacation and had to re-cap a lot of thoughts.  I'll be posting some of the videos I have taken on youtube for everyone to see.

December 16th
1 more week and I’m home!  (But shhh…no one is supposed to know.)  No morning class today so I slept in and waited until my afternoon school started.  Taught one class.  The principal gave me a bamboo shoot for a flower arrangement.  She sat down and talked with me about living alone (as she and her husband have just separated) and we both understood each other.  I think it was nice for the both of us to just let it out. 
At night, a guy named Nishimuta picked me up for a bounenkai at Mr. Tomishige’s place.  It turns out that the people who invited me over have made friends with every JET since Osaki-cho got it’s first.  They speak English wonderfully and were super hospitable to the guests and myself.  
Seafood Nabe

The wife had 3 of her friends over all day, preparing the feast we had.  There were two huge pots of Nabe at the tables, and luckily ours was seafood.  I talked with a guy named Fukumaru who invited me to make Soba noodles with he and his wife.  He said that they also own property on an island somewhere, and showed me beautiful pictures of crystal clear, blue water.  I also found out that Nishimuta, the guy who picked me up, was a nationally ranked Kendo fighter.  He’s one of those gentle giant types, smiling often, and seemingly relaxed all the time. 
Dinner Guests

The food was great, the beer and shochu flowed, and everyone had a great time.  I found out later in the night, that one of the helper ladies’ father (100 years old) had passed away during our dinner.  She actually stayed the whole time to help with the party.  I’m not sure how to interpret that.  Being in such a small community, family seems like such a high priority.  I also know that these people bend over backwards to help those around them.  But, to have to make a decision between your father and a party of coworkers, I would have thought that the host would tell her to be with family.
At the end of the night, Ms. Tomishige drove a car full of us home.  Upon getting to my own place, I found a box of soap bars on my mailbox.  No card, or indication of who left it, but now I have soap to last me 2 years.  Another interesting Thursday night.

December 17th
In light of Christmas approaching, I borrowed Kyle’s Santa costume and went to school wearing it.  I walked into the teacher’s room during their morning meeting and they couldn’t help but pause to laugh and smile.  Finally, I broke their “work concentration” look!  
The adorable kids of Osaki Elementary

The kids were INSANE all day!  Most of them just wanted to feel the material of the clothes and my fake beard.  They all came up with hands outstretched, saying “Present!  Please me!”  I would reply with, “A present for me?  Please!”  They were confused (man I’m good at that) but still had fun poking and crawling all over me.  At lunch, I played tag with a bunch of kids.  They just ran and ran and ran.  One little boy fell into the water fountain in front of the school and I think he was punished.  Poor guy, it wasn’t exactly mild weather today.
Getting ready to make our Christmas tree with cutouts of our hands

At night, I met up with the crazy clams of Shibushi for a wine and cheese party at Kyle’s place.  The food was great and we had an awesome dance party.  I think there were fireworks in the front yard, a visit from Santa, and some new kind of 3 person dance move.
Not sure what this move is called, but Cassie's taking the blunt of it

December 18th
Woke up feeling alright at Kyle’s and hung out with a few others as the morning passed.  Cleaned up the dishes and living room then went home.  I took a long walk to the hills/mountains by my house and called it a day.
Small farm along my route

December 19th
I woke up a little late today and heard Mr. Fukumaru ringing my doorbell outside.  We went to some sort of office building in the middle of real houses, where there were fires going and people kneading powder and water together.  First we knead a powder with water, form it into a ball, roll it flat and wide, then layer it.  
Rolling out the soba

Once everything is layered, we take the noodle dough to another station where we slice it into thin strips.  Since it has been overlapped so many times, the noodles unroll as super long noodles.  
Cutting the overlapped noodle dough

They are placed in bamboo baskets and then boiled over an open flame.  
Boiling the noodles

After eating one bowl of noodles, broth, onion, orange rind, and other stuff, I was feeling full.  Then Mr. Fukumaru quickly grabbed my bowl and refilled it.  Holy…moly.  I somehow finished the second bowl, but not without thinking that I was going to heave it all up. 
This was just a sample bowl, before we ate the meal

They gave me a bag of the noodles I made and some of my own powder to make my own noodles at home.  I quickly gave my bag of noodles to my neighbors, when I got home, as the sight of it made me want to throw up.
Went on a 1.5 hour walk and saw a ton of carp swimming in a river.

Decorated my house with lights and ornaments.  Made some CDs for grandpa.  Bought and decorated a wreath with snowflakes and lights and hung it on my car’s grill. 

December 20th
I was Santa at Hishida JHS.  One of my English teachers had asked me to make a CD with my favorite song.  So, I came to class with a copy of Beck’s “Debra.”  I played it for a few classes and I don’t think they knew what to make of it.  On the inside, I was dying of laughter, watching these kids listen to this song.  If you’ve never heard it, I urge you to look it up on YouTube.  The song entails a man singing to a girl he’s with, talking about how they met and how he felt.  Then, Beck continues to say that he also wants to be with the girl’s sister, named Debra.  I know that it’s not the most wholesome song, but the actual music is beautiful.  Beck somehow manages to hit higher and higher notes, which caused the kids to ask if it was a man or a woman singing the song.  Anywho, the classes looked like they had just seen a half-penguin, half-giraffe walk across the room after the song was finished.  I, on the other hand, continued to laugh on the inside about how great it was that I just got to play this song to a class of Japanese kids.  By far, one of my favorite moments in Japan.
I taught the kids to make snowflakes and we spent the rest of the class cutting bits of paper.  Took some pictures of the class, as their intense snowflake making stares were great. 
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Packed my suitcase a bit tonight and cannot wait to get home!

December 21st
At Daiichi JHS today.  Teachers loved the Santa costume and greeted me warmly.  I am officially dragging today.  The kids hanging on me, the anticipation of going home, everything is just wearing me out.  My second school was with elementary kids and it put a little spark in my day.  Snowflakes are a hit and the kids are making some great ones. 
Went to Kyle’s for dinner tonight.  We just needed a hang and it was a great way to relax after the crazy kids.  Kyle is getting excited for his girlfriend to get to Shibushi.  She just finished her exams in the states and has to navigate her way to our little area by herself.  We both hope she doesn’t turn and run at the sight of the stray cats, the smell of the cat food factory, and the clothing of all the people.  We know, it’s not THAT bad…but it’s almost as bad as a Chuck Norris roundhouse to the face. 

December 22nd
At Osaki JHS today and there’s a kid getting screamed at by 2 different teachers.  First, the volleyball coach just rips him up, and passes him onto another teacher to yell at him.  The 2nd teacher shoved the student in the chest a couple times (mind you it’s not just a slight push, he shoved the heck out of him.)  Not sure what he did, but I’ve never seen these teachers act this way.
I was kicked out of the teacher’s office during their meeting time.  Yup…I feel like one of the staff, thanks guys.  Sat in the principal’s office and stared at the pictures on the walls.  Only 2 classes today. 
Went to the BOE for the 2nd half of my day and got to leave to transfer money from my Japanese bank account to my account back home.  One of the nice ladies helped me do the transfer at the ATM, which I absolutely would have never figured out. 
I’m beyond myself how ready I am to get home.  My flight doesn’t leave until 10pm tomorrow night so I know I’m just going to be antsy.
December 23rd
As I guessed, I’m just antsy all day.  I’ve packed all my omiyage, clothes I don’t need anymore, and other random things into my bags.  The time finally comes and I drive to Kyle’s house to park my car for the time I’m gone.  Kyle and his girlfriend take me to the bus stop and wish me happy holidays.  They’re headed to India and a bunch of other countries for their vacation and I only hope they don’t spend half of it on the toilet. 
The bus takes 2 hours to get to the airport, but everything is smooth. 
Saw this cool Jeep along the way, with a swastika on the hood (usually represents a temple on Japanese maps, or is a Buddhist symbol for balance)

I made my flight to Tokyo, then my connection from Tokyo (1am) to Los Angeles.  I only sleep a little of the time and try to watch movies for a majority of the flight.  Somehow, I travel back in time and land in Los Angeles at 4:30pm on December 23rd.  Mom and John picked me up from the airport and we headed to dinner with Kalika.  I waited for Kalika to show up and then walked in and surprised her.  She would stare at me, then at mom and John, not knowing what to do.  I realized right there, that I can’t wait to be home for good. 
I don’t know why, but it felt more like Christmas season than I’ve felt in a long time.  We drove up to grandma and grandpa’s house to surprise them and I got to see the rest of the family.  It was so nice to be back. 

December 24th – January 9th
I, unfortunately, did not keep my journal while at home.  But I will try to remember most of what happened.  Christmas turned out to be great.  We woke up and opened presents.  Kalika and I drove to OC and saw our cousins and uncle Larry for a white elephant gift exchange.  Drove back to grandma and grandpa’s for dinner with the family (tamales were soooooo good!.)  The 27th to the 28th, John, uncle Kenny, and I went on a ride toward Hoover Dam.  After a couple hours of riding, uncle Kenny’s motorcycle started acting up and he had to turn back.  John and I made it to the hotel, not before meeting a retired marine, stopping off at Nipton road, and watching the sunset over Nevada.  
Marine who helped us with directions and told us about Oklahoma credit cards

We had a couple drinks, talking to our favorite bartender, before eating and going to bed.  The next day we set out and stopped for breakfast at a smoky old-school casino.  We ate a breakfast that filled us with meat, potatoes, eggs, and about 2 gallons of gravy.  Took a couple dirt roads to mix it up and found our way back home. 

I got to hang out with my LA and SD friends and then went on a trip to Tahoe with the Lah St. gang.  We snowboarded at Heavenly and Sierra, had two snowball fights, built a 9 ft. snowman, celebrated New Years in Reno, and even got to see Chewbacca. 

On our way back, we found out the grapevine had been closed, due to snow, for 24 hrs.  Luckily, it was re-opened and we didn’t hit any traffic. 
We had a nice family dinner one night, Sake almost went face to face with a mountain lion (that killed something in our neighbor’s driveway), and then I hung out with Gian and Metcalfe in Monterey Park. 
My amazing family...

Uncle Ken, Grandpa, and John poking his head in

John and I went on another motorcycle ride to Mt. Baldy and had lunch at the restaurant up there.  We  were freezing, with snow all over the roads.  I got to take John’s new Harley out for a spin, which is really really really really nice.  My last night, I drove to San Diego and went surfing with Dorian, and then celebrated Adam’s birthday with a bunch of friends.  Got home the next day and napped, packed, then got ready for the flight back to Japan.  The whole trip went by way too fast, even though I had already prepared myself for how fast it was going to feel.  Mom made beef stroganoff for my last dinner and I definitely stuffed myself. 
Nearly missed my connecting flight in the Tokyo Haneda airport, but got back to Kagoshima in one piece.  
Mt. Fuji

Kyle ended up have Mary Margaret’s car and drove the two of us back to his place.  I got my car and went home.  Took a super long run and passed out.  It was amazing how long it took me to adjust to California time, but I immediately got back into the rhythm of Japan time.
As I had hoped, the trip back home really got me to see how much I love and miss my family and friends.  I decided not to re-contract with my BOE (as much as I’ll miss some aspects of the lifestyle here) so I’m hoping I’ll get my share of Japan these last 6 months.

January 11th
I spent the entire day at the BOE, since it’s opening ceremony at most of my schools.  I gave my coworkers an omiyage of candy (KitKat, Almond Joy, Butterfinger, and some other random bars) and Mizoguchi immediately began comparing his Japanese KitKat with the one from the states.  Shinmiya even did a taste test to which he said, “Chocolate.” 
Right before lunch,Shinmiya came up to me with a couple pages that had some translated Japanese on them.  He was asking if I was going to re-contract for another year.  He even included how much they liked the way I worked with the kids and how great it was to spend time with his family on our Friday badminton nights.  It really was tough to turn to him and tell him that I’m only staying one year.  There have been 10 JETs in this town, most have stayed for 2 years, some for 3, and a few for 1.  I think my decision boiled down to a few key aspects that include: my family, my friends, starting my actual teaching career, and actually putting in a hard day of work.  As I’ve said before, it’s no fun to be a human parrot and I’d rather be making exciting lesson plans that are actually going to be used in a classroom.
After lunch, I went to Osaki Elementary to discuss the lesson plans the teachers have.  Of course, it mostly consisted of them trying to translate to English and me trying to understand their Japanese.  Once we all get tired of it, there’s just a lot of head nodding, “Mmm hmms,” and then we part ways. 
At night I did a bunch of pushups in hopes of making a new me for the new year.  Lets see if I can keep it up.

January 12th
I’m so sore today, it’s sad.  Those dang pushups.  Nothing special at work.  I have barely said a word in my first 2 classes.  At the 2nd school, instead of a lesson, I pretty much had a conversation with my cool teacher, Yohei.  It’s funny that in this class, I think the kids get more of the JET Programme than any of the other classes I teach.  Yohei and the kids simply ask questions they have about me or the US and I answer them.  We do go over English words and conversation, but our non-scripted conversations usually go into a good amount of depth and discussion.  It’s especially good for comparing our two countries. 
I left a bit early, since there weren’t any other classes to teach.  I did a plyometrics workout tonight that was pretty fun.  Went to sushi with Kyle, Becca, and Cassie.  We somehow get on the most ridiculous subjects and have the best time.  I love those guys. 
Went home and fell asleep by 9:30.  Booyah!

January 13th
SUPER coooooold this morning.  1st school only has one class to teach today.  Again, I barely said a word in the class.  Kids hands are blue.  I’m not lying, I was looking around the room and it’s so cold their hands are blue.  The kids (who knows why) keep closing the curtains, blocking the sun from coming in the room.  In the teacher’s room, the music teacher is saying, “Pasocon ganbatte!!!” (Do your best computer!!!.) 
All I have written in my little journal for the 2nd part of the day is, “2nd school insane.  Get me out!!!”  I don’t think that needs much more explaining.
Drove toward Kanoya and found some weights and push up bars.  Only if I could figure out a pull up bar in my house, but everything is made of paper.  Dropped off omiyage to Hamanoue and his wife who loved it.  They spent 20 minutes just looking at the card and envelope and asking questions about my mom.  It was great, they really appreciated the present and can’t wait to meet mom and Kalika when they get here.  They had me stay for dinner and his wife gave me her portion of the meal (fried chicken this time.)  Hamanoue even gave me a really small sip of some sort of alcohol they use to bring in the New Year.  I had actually quit drinking since I got back, but I didn’t want to do anything disrespectful.  It was literally a sip, so I’m not going to count it. 
Went home, worked out a bit, and had trouble sleeping because my arms are still sore from my first night of pushups.  When will this stop!?

January 14th
There’s ice on the ground and my windshield today.  I guess Kyle had ice in his kitchen (according to his text this morning.)  Classes were okay.  I kicked soccer balls as high in the air as I could (about 60 times) for the kids because they wanted to try and catch them.  There was a group of girls cracking open acorns in the bushes, so I snuck up and scared them.  This started a wave of laughter and shrieks from them.  I did it a couple more times when they put their guard down.  I went on the swings with a couple kids and we had other kids throwing soccer balls at our feet to see if we could kick them while swinging.  My arms are KILLING me trying to hold on to the swing.   But, this isn't a bad day of work, huh?
After work I hung out at home and took omiyage to Shinmiya after their badminton practice. 

January 15th
Met with Kyle and Becca and went to Kojima Island to see monkeys.  We took a boat ride about 300 feet from the dock and landed on some rocks on the little island.  
Boat driver with monkey island in the background

The boat driver made some noise that attracted the monkeys and they came at us, shrieking.  Some of them were fighting one another as he threw food to them.  He told us to get off and not to look at their eyes.  We looked at each other and didn’t know if he was serious.  Really, we just stood on the boat for 5 minutes not knowing what to do.  We finally stepped foot on the island and the monkeys didn’t do anything crazy.  They were crawling around our feet eating the food and biting one another. 
Clean monkeys

Baby monkeys were holding on to the underside of their mothers.  We spent about 30 minutes on the island and then the man came back to pick us up.  
Monkeys everywhere!

Afterward, we drove to Cape Toi and found some wild horses, called Misaki-uma ,on the side of the road.  According to the brochure, these are a particular type of horse that can only be found in Japan.  These are likely descendants of army horses that became wild 300 years ago.  They had a super fuzzy winter coat going on.
Fuzzy horses

We initially tried two different places for dinner.  The first one looked grungy and smelled of fish (not a good sign for a sushi place.)  The second restaurant was expensive and we couldn’t understand any of the Japanese.  Kyle bit the bullet and told the woman at the front we were leaving because the Japanese was too hard.  As we exited, we heard two women burst out in laughter.  Hell, we even laughed as we left our second restaurant of the night.  Luckily, we always have our wonderful okonomiyaki restaurant to rely on.  It was as delicious as I remembered and the guys who work there were their normal, happy selves. 
Becca and the bewildered little girl

January 16th
Woke up at 6, but didn’t meet with Becca and Kyle until 11.  We were supposed to leave for the city at 10, but some people slept in.  It’s okay, I got some cleaning done around my house.  We drove to Sakurajima and took the ferry across.  I had a soba noodle bowl while crossing the waters that wasn’t bad for ferry food.  
This is when the snow flurries started

We walked to the trolley and took it to Amu Plaza, where we looked around the stores for a few hours.  Met up with some other JETs and just talked for a while.  While we were there, it snowed on the city, just a light dusting.  But, it was windy and super cold.  Nonetheless, there was an abundance of Japanese girls wearing short shorts and skirts with heels.  What is going on here? 

Kyle, Becca, and I sadly got on the ferry and headed back toward my car.  It was late and we were dreading our work day tomorrow.  Oh well, at least we made the most of this weekend and had some fun despite the snow.

January 17th
Got to school right as the teacher’s morning meeting got out.  You must believe me when I write this, I am not making any of this up.  There were teachers sprinting, actually sprinting, down the hallway.  I didn’t know what was going on until they took a quick left and ran inside the teacher’s office where the kerosene burners were heating the room.  Then the next 15 words I heard were “Samui,” (cold.)  This is already getting annoying and I’ve barely been back from my trip.  I only taught 3 classes today.  Read a magazine during my down time and walked around the school since they wouldn’t give me anything to do.
After work I went running and went to bed early.

January 18th
Only 2 classes at my first school.  Played basketball at lunch and pulled a muscle in my lower back.  Didn’t have a second school to go to, so I went home.  I worked on my vacation video for a couple hours and went to bed.

January 19th
Yup, I definitely pulled a muscle in my back.  It’s not as cold this morning but there’s a lot more ash than usual on my windshield.  We have a new Kyoto-sensei (vice principal) at my main school.  Apparently our other vice-principal was offered a job at an all-Japanese school in New Jersey.  Say what!?  Not only is it Jersey, but it’s a contract for 3 years.  I know, hopefully he’s in a good area.  One of my JTEs came to ask me what kind of state New Jersey is.  I just let her know that some parts are beautiful, but others can be extremely rough.  I can’t even imagine this man trying to make his way through the bad parts of Jersey.  The new vice-principal seems super nice though.  He actually greets the students with a smile and has approached me twice (already more than the last). 
My first class of kids seem better behaved than I remember.  My “cool” teacher is really needy today and my other JTE is being much nicer and funny.  3 hours after being at school, one of my JTEs came and asked what the yellow thing was on my chin.  Turns out my over-easy eggs dripped onto my chin and I didn’t feel it because of my beard.  Sweet. 
Since I was walking around funny, they realized my back wasn’t feeling great.  Takagi, the tea lady, offered to give me a massage (with a little wink) and then she scurried off with a loud laugh.  Ms. Keno made arrangements for me to see one of the student’s parents (a doctor) to look at my back.  I declined, hoping it would get better on its own with some time. 
At home, I did a back and shoulders workout (very carefully) and finished editing my vacation video. 
I forgot to mention that I had a girl cry in one of my classes today.  We were doing warm up English exercises and I asked the students when their birthday is.  She voluntarily raised her hand and then stood there mumbling to herself.  After about 10 seconds, I told her it’s okay and she could sit down.  She didn’t sit down.  She continued mumbling and then crying while standing.  My JTE finally told her to sit down and she did…still crying.  Needless to say, I felt like a jerk.

January 20th
Took out my big bags of recycling this morning and cleared up my kitchen.  At school, some boys got yelled at for who knows what.  One of the punishments was for the boys to stack and tie manga books together for recycling.  This would have been much different had our other vice-principal been here.  Besides that, the first half of the day wasn’t too entertaining.  The second half of the day, I noticed my kids were frozen and blue again.  They really need to invest in insulation.  If someone can figure out how to sell insulation to the Japanese, they will become instant billionaires.  It’s needed everywhere.
Did plyometrics workout tonight and went to Cassies for nabe dinner.  I got to meet Beau and Kat’s new baby, Finn.  What a little cutey.  Kat accidentally misread my shirt and asked if it said, “Jigga Toohey.”  So now we have a new name for our little group of clams to use.

January 21st
Hit the snooze button too many times and woke at 7:30.  Made it to school on time (somehow.)  My holiday video cd isn’t working, I’ll have to put it on a DVD.  At my second school, the kids were freezing again, so I had planned ahead and brought a bunch of those heat packets people take skiing.  I passed out all 6 to my kids, and teacher, to share throughout the period.  These poor kids, they’re still wearing shorts and dresses because of the uniforms.
Went to Cassie’s for a slumber party tonight.  Hadn’t done that since elementary school.  We talked for a long time and finally went to bed. 

January 22nd
In the morning, I woke up and took Becca to the bus stop, then headed home.  I slept a bit more and drove back to Cassie’s to have brunch with Kyle, Cassie, and Justin.  Cassie made pumpkin French toast batter, in which she dropped her iPhone and didn’t realize it for about 10 minutes.  
We still don't know how it got in there
After soaking the 4th piece of bread, she said nonchalantly, “My iPhone is in the batter.”  She was so ready to eat, the phone didn’t matter.  Luckily, I dried it off and got most of the batter out of the holes and it worked. 
We all drove to Okuchi to meet with a huge group of JETs at an ice carving festival.  Along the way, we stopped at a mall to pick up Cassie’s new glasses.  Inside, there was a Baskin Robbins ice cream shop that had some interesting flavors. 
"Popping Shower" flavor

Arriving at the ice carving festival, we even got to sled down a huge hill of ice blocks.  It was most likely made just for kids, but they were letting us take turns as well.  

Then I ate too much festival food: chocolate covered banana, onigiri (rice) covered in bacon with melted cheese, some of Kyle’s tacoyaki, and some of Cassie’s sweet potato.  Shortly after, I fell into a little food coma.  
Bacon wrapped onigiri (rice ball) with melted cheese

We all huddled around big trashcans with burning logs and talked as the night rolled by.  We left and slept at Justin’s house that night.
Huddled around the glowing red trashcan

January 23rd
Woke in the morning, still a bit cold, and drove back home.  I went home and slept, since I didn’t sleep much on the floor.  The rest of the day wasn’t very productive.  Actually, I wasn’t feeling well and my throat was becoming sore.

January 24th
I woke up and decided to call in sick.  Shinmiya got the point and said something about a hospital.  It wasn’t until 10 that I heard my doorbell with Shinmiya waiting.  He took me to the Osaki-cho hospital and I was seen by a doctor who could speak decent English.  He told me to open my mouth and say “Ah,” but didn’t look in my mouth for more than a half second before checking me with his stethoscope.  He told me to breathe deeply, and in 1/8th of a second of putting the stethoscope to my back, he had finished.  Then he prescribed me drugs for the cold, for the fever I didn’t have (actually saying that if I get a fever, to take them,) and some sort of gargling solution that’s supposedly an antibacterial solution.  At the pharmacist, next door, we met up with Shinmiya’s friend who also works at that night club where we Karaoke’d with my BOE guys. 
I got my drugs and we headed to Shinmiya’s house, where his wife was waiting with some sort of rice and egg porridge that’s meant to make you feel better when you’re sick.  It was really good and she gave me some tea to drink as well.  They showed me how they had framed the card my mom made for their omiyage and even showed me that the gift was in their best room, next to their other valuable items.  I really didn’t expect that, especially the framed card on top of their TV for all to see.
Shinmiya took me home but not before his wife gave me a bag of more rice and egg porridge, apples, vitamin c jelly packets, and two different bread desserts. 
I stayed at home the rest of the day and watched movies on my computer.  Even though I’m not feeling great, it has been nice sitting still.

January 25th
I woke up this morning with my throat feeling worse than before.  Luckily, I didn’t have class until 2.  I slept until 10 and started to get ready for the day.  I got to my school and only had one class to teach.  After the class was over, the principal and two of the teachers brought in a box of kids toys and started playing with them.  For at least an hour they were playing with pieces of string, making Jacob’s Ladders.  Yes, this is Japan. 
Two teachers hard at work

After work I went to the store and bought a ton of groceries.  Tomatoes and avacadoes are everywhere and extremely cheap right now, so I’m happy. 
It’s cold tonight and my throat hasn’t gotten better, I’m hoping some sleep will help.

January 26th
I couldn’t sleep at all last night.  I was up and turning until about 4:30am.  It didn’t help that the neighbor’s rooster started crowing at 3:50.  Not too sure if it was the tea I drank before bed, so I’ll have to nix that next time.  This morning has been decent.  My first class I showed the video I edited.  They seemed to like it, especially because they didn’t have to do anything for 7 minutes.  At the end of the class, one boy was being drawn on by another student.  It turns out he had plucked his eyebrows the night before and wanted them filled in (it’s a big no no for boys to pluck their eyebrows, but many do it anyway).  So I got to watch one of my JTEs yell at the kid.  It probably didn’t help that I was laughing while the other kid was drawing on his fake eyebrows.  Also to be funny, he drew a huge “V” between his eyebrows to create a unibrow, simultaneously making him look like an anime character.
I’m supposed to be in another class right now, but the teacher is ignoring me today so I’ll just play along.  This school has been a bit weird lately.  A lot of kids acting out, teachers behaving strangely, and a feeling like it’s the first day of a new school year.  I don’t quite understand what’s going on. 
Kyle texted me that he’s got a sore throat as well, I’m hoping it wasn’t me who spread it.  We are all supposed to be going to Topher’s tonight for chili.  I hope he’ll feel up to it.
My Japanese language study is definitely lacking.  I’m really not motivated anymore.  I’ve found more comfort in working out, practicing instruments, and taking walks.  I’ve actually been in a slump mood lately, not completely sure why.  Some of it is connected to the language course and I already feel better telling myself not to worry about it.  Besides that I’m especially nervous, anxious, and a mix of other emotions about finding a job back in the states.  I emailed a girl from my credential class yesterday and she has been teaching up in Redding for the past year.  The way she made it sound, there are jobs to be found.
After work I did a good workout and then drove with Kyle and Cassie to Topher’s house for a chili dinner.  Our time talking was definitely what I needed.  Kyle was telling us a story about one of the girls he works with, who is from China.  She doesn’t speak much English or Japanese, so she has a tough time getting through her days.  Apparently, she legally got an English name “Jennifer,” but doesn’t know how to pronounce it correctly.  So when she says it, it almost sounds as if it’s in the form of the question and it comes out as, “Jennison?”    We all got a kick out of it and kept referring to Jennison throughout the night.  We got back to Kyle’s house and as I turned on my car to leave, I noticed a lot of ash on my windshield.  I turned on my wipers and pilings of ash collected.  Kirishima, the volcano that became active last year, exploded today with lava and everything.  I’m sure the ash will collect for the next couple days.  Got home and froze myself to sleep.

January 27th
As expected, there was a decent layer of ash on my windshield this morning.  I was not in the mood to teach today.  My feet were numb from the coldness of my house and my hands were slightly thawing after holding them over my open-flame burners in the kitchen.  I got to school and found out I only have 3 classes to teach today, meaning I’ll have nothing to do after lunch.  My JTE came up to me with a list of the classes and says, “First we have 2-2, I’ll prepare something,” then sprints down the hallway.  I’m not sure if nature just called or she’s going to prepare something 5 minutes before class starts.  The principal is in one of his bored modes today.  He has abruptly popped through his office door, into the teachers' room, and stood still not 3 steps inside.  Out of the corner of my eye, I can see that he’s looking for something to do by his mixed, jittery body movements.  After about 15 seconds he leaves to his own office.  I would start a conversation with him, but every time I do he says the 3 words I don’t ever want to hear again…”It’s cold today.”  I know he’s being nice, but when everyone’s fingers are freezing off and no one can understand one another except by the Morse code of their chattering teeth, there’s no reason to state such a thing.
I started reading Lila: An Inquiry into Morals, by Robert Pirsig, after my first failed attempt.  This is the same guy who wrote Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values.  I really enjoyed that book, even though it took me nearly 5 months to finish (working at the ranch at that time and some of the reading being deeeeep deep.)  I’m hoping I can get this done within the next few weeks. 
Yup, so here I am.  In a teacher’s office with one coughing vice-principal and one other teacher.  I ask for papers to grade or English to correct, but they haven’t given me a thing since I got back from the states.  This, right here, is a huge reason why I can’t wait to get back home.  

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